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Brahms and Schumann Share Brahms Fest Opener

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Jan 15, 2016 - 2:52:30 PM in reviews_2016


Brahms Fest, a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra initiative to focus on the music of Johannes Brahms this season and next, got splendidly underway Thursday evening at Music Hall with his Symphony No. 1.

   The CSO, led by music director Louis Langrée gave an additional dimension to the program with Robert Schumann, Brahms’ mentor, friend and husband of Brahms’ lifelong love, Clara Schumann.

   The first half of the program comprised Schumann’s Piano Concerto in an elegant performance by pianist Kirill Gerstein.

   Gerstein’s was a very musical interpretation but with real personality: warm and moving in the opening Allegro affetuoso, gentle and soulful in the Intermezzo, jolly and exuberant in the final Allegro vivace. Every note was in place and he worked beautifully with Langrée and the CSO.

Responding to an enthusiastic standing ovation, Gerstein encored with the second movement of Clara Schumann’s own piano concerto, which also features solo cello.  It was a lovely moment with principal cellist Ilya Finkelsteyn, each artist taking turns on the solo.

   Langrée made a beautiful canvas of the Brahms symphony. The first movement was full of wonderful sonorities and great dignity. Oboist Dwight Parry, clarinetist Jonathan Gunn  and concertmaster Timothy Lees added distinctive solos in the second movement.

   Following the genial intermezzo, the finale made a grand impression, beginning with principal hornist Elizabeth Freimuth’s commanding solo echoed by Randolph Bowman on flute. Langrée took his time moving into the great theme of the finale after a splendid introduction, giving the movement climactic


 Responding to an immediate standing ovation, he encored with Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1.

   The concert repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday and in a special “Stories in Concert” presentation, at 2 p.m. Sunday at Music Hall. (For “Stories in Concert,” see http://www.musicincincinnati.com/site/news_2015/CSO_Stories_in_Concert_Begins_with_Berlioz.html)